Kalamazoo County Looks For Virus-Spreading Mosquitoes

Jun 4, 2020

File photo of a mosquito caught in Salt Lake City being tested for signs of eastern equine encephalitis
Credit Rick Bowmer / AP Photo

COVID-19 isn't the only disease-causing virus out there. Kalamazoo County health officials are beginning their annual search for mosquitoes that carry other dangerous viruses.

One is the "Asian Tiger" mosquito that can carry the Zika virus. Environmental Health Director Vern Johnson says Kalamazoo County is in the migration path of the invasive insects.

"And that's very concerning to women who are pregnant or are planning some family planning where they're expanding their household. And so, it can have some real negative health impacts to the fetus."

So far, no "Asian Tiger" mosquitoes have been found in the Kalamazoo area. But they have been caught in southeastern Michigan.

A mosquito trap in Kalamazoo County
Credit Kalamazoo County Department of Health & Community Services

Johnson says the county is also sampling other mosquitoes that carry eastern equine encephalitis. Triple-E causes serious health problems and even death for people who get it.

"By doing so, this is a really early detection that we're doing within our county to find out if Triple-E is being carried by these mosquitoes, early warning surveillance, if you will."

Health officials say it's hard to say if it will be another bad year for eastern equine encephalitis in southwest Michigan. A large outbreak of the disease in 2019 led to controversial aerial spraying of insecticides across much of the southern Lower Peninsula. Johnson says his department is putting special traps in marshy areas to lure mosquitoes that can carry Triple-E."

"It could be that we don't see Triple-E this year. We might, because of all of the flooding that's happened as well. So, there are a lot of questions that certainly need to be answered and we're hopeful that this pilot study will do just that."

The study also includes Calhoun County and Michigan State University.